We’ve all done it. We’ve all invested time and energy into someone or something and then come to the horrible conclusion that nothing is changing. Nothing we seem to do or say helps them or changes them or even seems to reach them.
When is it enough? When do we stop hoping, stop trying…stop praying?
The answer is never. Well, at least that’s the answer if you’re a Christian.
The truth is that we never stop.
We pretty much need to take on a snail’s view of prayer, too. Slow and steady, moving ever forward and trusting that the finish line is ahead, even if we don’t know how long it is going to take or how far it is ahead.
No matter how painful and useless our prayers and our efforts seem, God never gives us a pass on this one. As a matter of fact, the very act of persevering in our prayers and in our efforts is exactly what our Father requires of us. And we are to do so with absolutely no time constraints on either how or when He will choose to act.
No joke. This isn’t easy, but it is a fact. It has been said that a Christian is the only person on the planet who willingly sacrifices her present on the altar of her future. We have to do that on behalf of others, too.
This is often so hard as parents. It’s so hard to pray and pray and pray for our children, especially when they are in some sort of rebellion, and then just keep on praying as days and months and years go by with no change. Often it even seems to get worse. It’s certainly not that we want to stop praying; it’s more that we can get discouraged with God.
Why doesn’t He act? What is He waiting on?
These are difficult questions, and it gets increasingly difficult to persevere when nothing we say seems to make a difference.
I’ve experienced this with my own children, and I’ve often experienced it with the women I counsel. I get so downtrodden and frustrated with the lack of improvement. Eventually, I have to fight the urge to simply give up.
Yeah, I’ve wanted to give up plenty of times. There have been times when I saw a woman for years, every single week, telling her the same things and watching her heed not one of my words. I would think about changing what I told her. I would think about giving up, letting her go, telling her that our time had come to an end and that there was nothing else I could do for her. I’d get angry and frustrated and fight the drudgery of seeing her again and again, having the same conversations over and over.
Do you ever feel this way with others? With your children?
A friend and I were discussing this very issue the other day, and the example the Lord brought to my mind were His people, the Israelites. When God delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians, He simply told them to go out into the desert. They would wander from place to place, knowing that the promise was for their land, but they never got much clarity about when they would receive it. The Lord only told them that they would get to it, but in the meantime, they were to keep walking.
“Just keep walking,” He told them. “I will bring you into the Promised Land. I will give you victory over your enemies. I will protect you as My people. You are to keep walking.”
As I thought about these exchanges, I thought about how they must have felt. We can sometimes be so critical of the Israelites. Indeed, they were a rebellious and fickle people, but aren’t we, too? I mean, think about it. They wandered around for forty years! Sometimes they literally wandered around in circles, in the middle of the desert!
And all that time, God never said, “You will see the Promised Land in twenty-two days,” or in twenty-two years, or in any time frame at all! God just told them to walk and that He would certainly do the work.
Why do you suppose He didn’t give them His schedule?
I’m pretty sure it’s exactly why He doesn’t give it to you and me either. If He did, we would begin to rely on the schedule and not on Him. We would come to expect God to work within the parameters of what we think and what we want rather than just obediently walking where He tells us to walk and then having faith that He will indeed keep His promises.
That, my friends, is faith, and faith is precisely the way we demonstrate our full reliance on a God who has given us everything.
So, we pray. We persevere for as long as it takes—for decades if necessary—not because we have to do so in order to see the fruit, but because our obedience and faith are how we demonstrate our love of and trust in God.
Why do we never give up? It’s because the work is not ours to accomplish anyway. Ours is to walk, just like the Israelites, because God has promised in His Word,
God is not a man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should
change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not
(Numbers 23:19, ESV)
Additionally, the writer of Hebrews reminds us,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,
for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23, ESV)
So, we keep praying. We keep testifying, and we never change our proclamation of the Gospel. In those words are life, and God will do His work—in His time. There have been occasions where I got to see God move in the women I counselled, even after years, and how marvelous it was to know that I didn’t give up! But there have been times that I did give up, and you know what? God still does His work; I simply don’t get the joy of being a part of it.
And with our children? Sisters, persevere! The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV) He will do His work in our children, too. We do sacrifice our present on the altar of our future, and we do so for our children, as well.
We know that what we see does not determine what will be, and we know that God is right in the middle of what will be! Hallelujah!!
Trust Him. Pray to Him. Have faith in Him. Even if it’s hard, hold tight to Him.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:13, ESV)
Why did the snail finish the race? The same reason we do. He persevered.